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Whalum, Kirk

Kirk Whalum

1958—

Jazz musician, saxophonist

"Kirk Whalum is nothing less than a jazz fusion legend," wrote Wansel Greenberry of the Memphis Tri-State Defender. Whalum's renowned tenor saxophone playing has graced albums of worship and gospel music, covers of pop tunes, straight-ahead rhythm and blues, and movie soundtracks in addition to jazz recordings. He has also toured and recorded with Babyface, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Barbra Streisand, and George Benson. His talent and versatility have made Whalum one of the few commercially successful contemporary jazz performers who also garnered respect from jazz critics, many of whom dismiss radio-friendly jazz music as artistically questionable. For his part, Whalum has simply tried to make the music that he, and audiences, love to hear. "I must say that I'm motivated pretty much by the attitude of musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington," he told Karen Rutter of the Mail & Guardian Online Web site. "Not because they pushed the limits, but because they played music for the people. They played the kind of music you could dance to, listen to, make love to. You might call it a commercial approach, but I think it's more about a human touch."

Surrounded by Music from an Early Age

Kirk Whalum was born in 1958 in Memphis, Tennessee, where his father was the pastor of a Baptist church. Whalum played the drums for the choir in church; at home he was inspired by the examples of two of his uncles, arranger Wendell Whalum and pianist and saxophonist Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum, who were successful jazz artists, as well as by his grandmother, Thelma Twigg Whalum, who gave piano lessons. Although he first took up the drums, Whalum started to play the saxophone while he was in junior high school. By the time he reached high school, his talent for the instrument was so obvious that he was drafted into his school's jazz band by its music instructor. He quickly developed a love for jazz music and began playing at some Memphis clubs while he was still in high school.

Although he pursued jazz as his primary interest, Whalum was influenced by a diverse range of musical sources. "I grew up in Memphis, one of the world's most eclectic places," he explained to Jeff Bradley of the Denver Post in a 1996 interview. "You've got some serious blues, gospel is really big, and Nashville is right around the corner. If you travel between the cities, you find people of every ethnic persuasion who like all different kinds of music."

After completing high school in Memphis, Whalum was awarded a scholarship to study music at Texas Southern University in Houston. He lost no time in diving into one of the most creative jazz scenes in the country, and formed his own jazz band. "Houston was such a cool music town in the early eighties," Whalum recalled in a biography posted on his website. "There were so many live music venues then. And everybody came through Houston…. I was like a sponge—just sitting there with these giants and absorbing everything they threw my way." After he completed his studies at Texas Southern, Whalum almost put music aside for a more practical career. After spending just one day on the job at a Houston department store, however, he suffered a car accident that caused him to reevaluate his priorities. He decided that he could only be happy by pursuing music as a full-time career.

Saxophone Playing Set Him Apart

Whalum's first big break came in 1983 when his band opened for jazz pianist and composer Bob James. James immediately invited Whalum to play saxophone on an album he was recording, titled 12. In addition to soloing on some of the album's cuts, Whalum wrote one of its tracks, "Ruby, Ruby, Ruby," which he penned in honor of his wife, Rubystyne Whalum. Whalum subsequently became part of James's touring band and in 1984 secured a recording contract with Columbia Records. His first album, Floppy Disk, was produced by James and was released in 1985. And You Know That! followed in 1988 and The Promise was released in 1989. Although sales for the albums were modest, each helped to build Whalum's reputation with critics and jazz lovers. "It's a blessed wind that blows everyone good," wrote David Hiltbrand of People in a review of The Promise. The critic added, "And the sweet zephyr emanating from Whalum's sax is such a godsend."

As a solo artist, session musician, and father, Whalum found that the late 1980s and early 1990s were a busy period. Along with his wife, Ruby, whom he married around 1981, Whalum raised four children, Courtney (Whalum's daughter by a previous relationship), Kyle, Kori, and Evan. Whalum was also active as a movie soundtrack composer and arranger on films such as The Prince of Tides, Boyz in the Hood, and Grand Canyon, all of which were released in 1991. In 1992 one of Whalum's guest appearances in the recording studio helped make pop music history. His saxophone solo on Whitney Houston's rendition of the Dolly Parton song "I Will Always Love You" from the soundtrack of the movie The Bodyguard helped the song spend 14 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The single set a record for the most weeks on top of the charts, and its popularity encouraged Whalum to move back to the United States from Paris, where he had lived with his family for a brief period. Whalum ended up joining several of Houston's concert tours in the 1990s as her opening act.

Whalum released two more albums on Columbia, Caché in 1993 and In This Life in 1995. In 1997 he signed with Warner Brothers and released Colors, an album inspired by his interest in promoting cross-cultural harmony. In 1998 Whalum released two albums that demonstrated his range of talent and interests. The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter 1 reflected his deep spirituality, while For You reached a broad audience with covers of popular songs such as "My All" and "That's the Way Love Goes." In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, Whalum described For You as "My way of saying thank-you to all the fans who have been so loyal over the past 15 years, and to all the musicians I've worked with." The album became Whalum's most successful to date and hit the top spot on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

Although Whalum's 2001 release, Unconditional, included a couple of pop cover tunes, it featured a more aggressive sound that surprised some critics who had expected him to continue with his successful, smooth-jazz image. "Sometimes it is thought that the listeners of what is termed ‘smooth jazz’ want some sort of background music," Whalum explained in an interview with Billboard. "But I think most of them want something honest and a bit raw, something with substance." Whalum changed directions again with an album of holiday-themed songs on The Christmas Message in 2001. In addition to his recorded output, Whalum continued to be a popular performer in concert.

Collaborated with Many

From his base in Nashville, Tennessee, Whalum took satisfaction in the release of The Best of Kirk Whalum in 2002, and in the continuing respect of jazz fans and critics. Yet his biggest source of professional pride came from the personal connection he had made with his listeners through his music. "Musically, I am most encouraged by people telling me that when they hear me play, they don't hear just a saxophone, but my actual voice, as if it's just a vehicle for what's deep inside me," he told Jonathan Widran on the Smooth Jazz website. He added, "It's a motivating blessing for me."

At a Glance …

Born Kirk Whalum on July 11, 1958, in Memphis, TN; married Rubystyne Whalum; children: Courtney (from a previous relationship), Kyle, Kori, and Evan. Education: Studied music at Texas Southern University.

Career: Session musician and recording artist, 1985-; artist-in-residence, Stax Music Academy, Memphis, TN, 2006-.

Addresses: Web—www.kirkwhalum.com.

Yet Whalum did not aspire to hold the spotlight alone. That same year he released The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter II, an album that included vocals by his brother Kevin and bass playing by his then-19-year-old son Kyle. Whalum explained his emotions about playing with his son to Jet: "It's especially sweet to make a record and collaborate with my son, where we're on the same page spiritually, where we're glorifying the God that we both serve…. I find my son inspiring me in a new way." The collaboration, with his family and the other musicians on the album, proved delightful to critics. Billboard reviewer Gordon Ely praised Whalum for "generously sharing the spotlight," and called the album a "superb sequel to his 1999 hit."

In 2006 Whalum collaborated with another inspiration of his, his 78-year-old uncle Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum. His uncle had played in local venues in and around St. Louis for 50 years, but never got a big break. But Whalum helped change that; the two played together in New York City and Whalum produced and performed on his uncle's first album, Introducing Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum. Whalum praised his uncle as a mentor and noted that "Amazingly, over the course of time, his voice has refined and been curing like a fine wine," according to Tim Butler of the Tri-State Defender.

Returned Home

When Whalum's last child left for college, he and his wife returned to Memphis, where Whalum became an artist-in-residence at the Stax Music Academy. Whalum worked with students at the school and also served as a public ambassador for the academy, performing and speaking on its behalf. Whalum wanted his artist-in-residency to help establish the school. "A lot of it will be to have my name associated with the Academy and to find ways to do something good," Whalum told Butler.

His affiliation with the Stax Music Academy would not stop his recording or touring schedules. He was working on another sequel to The Gospel According to Jazz and performing and producing multiple projects. His first album with Rendevous, The Babyface Songbook, a fresh instrumental take on Babyface Edmonds music that released in 2005. The album served as a testament to Whalum's lyricism as an instrumentalist. "I had the lyrics running through my mind as I played, I wanted to really feel every word and every note, to convey the emotional intensity. As I play them, I'm singing each lyric to myself," Whalum said, according to the Rendevous Web site. The music highlighted his performances in the coming years.

Yet even as Whalum continued to evolve as an artist, he did not forget the influences of his past. He released a compilation album called Ultimate Kirk Whalum in 2007, which All Music Guide reviewer Thom Jurek called a "deep look at the past as it points toward the future." Remembering his past did not simply mean replaying old songs for Whalum. That same year he released Round Trip, and album which took Whalum on a colossal musical journey. The tracks started with his musical beginning in Memphis then segued to the sound he developed in Texas, to the sounds he picked up during his time in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, and Europe. Jurek found Round Trip to be "a deeply personal offering that is celebratory in nature rather than merely reflective." Both albums reached the number two spot on the Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz chart in 2007. Whalum's three-decade-long career gave him a range of inspiration that continued to offer him fresh ideas for the future.

Selected discography

Albums

Floppy Disk, Columbia, 1985.

And You Know That!, Columbia, 1988.

The Promise, Columbia, 1989.

Caché, Columbia, 1993.

In This Life, Columbia, 1995.

Colors, Warner Brothers, 1997.

The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter I, Warner Brothers, 1998.

For You, Warner Brothers, 1998.

Joy, Warner Brothers, 1999.

Unconditional, Warner Brothers, 2001.

The Christmas Message, Warner Brothers, 2001.

Hymns in the Garden, Warner Brothers, 2001.

The Best of Kirk Whalum, Sony, 2002.

The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter II, Warner Brothers, 2002.

The Babyface Songbook, Rendevous, 2005.

Ultimate Kirk Whalum, Mosaic, 2007.

Round Trip, Rendevous, 2007.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, October 7, 2000, p. 39; November 16, 2002, p. 25.

Denver Post, February 19, 1996, p. E10.

Jet, December 9, 2002, p. 37.

Newsweek, May 20, 1996, p. 76.

People, September 4, 1989, p. 19.

Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), September 23, 2001, p. 5.

Tri-State Defender (Memphis, TN), September 21-27, 2006, p. 9; August 2-8, 2007, p. 10.

On-line

"Kirk Whalum," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (November 29, 2007).

Kirk Whalum (official artist website),http://www.kirkwhalum.com (August 29, 2002).

"Kirk Whalum," Rendevous, http://rendezvousmusic.com/v2/artistHome.php?ID=25&page=bio (November 29, 2007).

Mail & Guardian Online,http://www.chico.mweb.co.za/art/q_n_a/qna.html (April 18, 2000).

Smooth Jazz News,http://www.smoothjazznews.com (May 2001).

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Whalum, Kirk

Kirk Whalum

Saxophonist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Best known for his saxophone solo on Whitney Houstons hit I Will Always Love You, contemporary jazz musician Kirk Whalum has also recorded a series of well received solo albums and film soundtracks, with music ranging from pop to R&B to smooth jazz. His best-selling 1998 contemporary jazz album, For You, included instrumental versions of the pop hits My AH and Thats the Way Love Goes, as well as the Motown classic I Want You. The son of a minister, Whalum also turned to spiritual themes for the 1998 release The Gospel According to Jazz and the 2001 releases Hymns in the Garden and The Christmas Message. With each project, I make sure that I am honest to who I am as [much as] possible, and I always tell the truth, presenting a unique snapshot of where my life and faith are at that time, Whalum remarked to Smooth Jazz News online in a May of 2001 interview. My basic process of writing is going down in my basement and praying, thanking God for everything and then asking Him for melodies that would help glorify Him. Thats why few of my recordings revolve around concepts. I just like to let things flow naturally.

Born around 1959 in Memphis, Tennessee, Whalum was surrounded by music as he grew up in the R&B capital of the South. In addition singing in his fathers church choir, Whalum also learned to love music from his grandmother, Thelma Twigg Whalum, a piano teacher, and two uncles, Wendell Whalum and Hugh Peanuts Whalum, who performed with jazz bands around the country. These influences proved lasting, as he told Ebony Man in a 1994 profile, The music I like to play and write encompasses the four elements I grew up with: Memphis R&B, gospel, rock, and jazz. The emphasis, though, is on melody, period.

Whalum started out playing the drums but switched to the saxophone in junior high. He was not immediately drawn to jazz, however. As he recalled in a February of 2002 interview with Sandy Masuo of the Grammy Foundation online, I was coerced into the Gazz] program. The teacher welcomed me and said he had heard I was gifted, and that hed like to see me in the jazz program. And I said, no, thanks. I was 15what did I know? And he said, Let me rephrase that: You are now in the jazz program. So I didnt choose it, but I knew from the first rehearsal that this was the music I wanted to play.

Whalum did not look back. While still a teenager, he played in his schools jazz band and at jazz clubs around Memphis. His skill earned him a music scholarship to Texas Southern University in Houston. He continued to play in Houston-area jazz groups while writing arrangements and playing with the universitys Texas Southern Jazz Ensemble. By the early 1980s Whalum was a regular opening act for national headliners that came to Houston for concerts. He also became a father for the first time around 1979 when his daughter Courtney was born. He married Rubystyne (or Ruby) Whalum around 1981, and she adopted Courtney as her daughter. The Whalum family later grew to include three more children: Kyle, Kori, and Evan.

While still at Texas Southern University, Whalum was involved in a car accident while returning from a school concert. This was a turning point for Whalum, who decided that it was a message from God not to go back to the day job at a department store that he had just started. He wanted me to make music, Whalum recalled in a profile with Smooth Jazz News in 2001, Whatever the cost. The young musician did not have to wait long for his big break; after opening for keyboardist Bob James at a Houston concert in 1983, James asked Whalum to appear on his album 12. James also recorded one of Whalums original compositions, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, that he had written in honor of his wife.

Whalum spent a year touring with Jamess band and in 1985 signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. His first album, Floppy Disk, was released in 1985 and was followed by two more albums produced by Bob James, And You Know That! (1988) and The Promise (1989). Following the release of The Promise, Whalum took a break from his solo career to concentrate on performing with other artists. He recorded with Luther Vandross, Barbra Streisand, George Benson, and Quincy Jones. He also worked on the soundtracks to the films The Prince of Tides (1991), Boyz in the Hood (1991), and Grand Canyon (1991).

For the Record

Born c. 1959 in Memphis, TN; married to Rubystyne Whalum; four children.Education: Studied saxophone at Texas Southern University.

Released first album, Floppy Disk, 1985; performed on Whitney Houston single I Will Always Love You, 1992; hit top of Billboard contemporary jazz chart with For You, 1998; worked on several film soundtracks, 1990s.

Addresses: Record company Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4694, website: http://www.wbjazz.com. Management Cole Classic Management, P.O. Box 231, Canoga Park, CA 91305.Fan clubKirk Whalum Fan Club, P.O. Box 218859, Nashville, TN 37221.Website Kirk Whalum Official Website: http://www.kirkwhalum.com.

In 1992 Whalum made his biggest mark to date when he appeared on Whitney Houstons version of I Will Always Love You, originally performed by Dolly Parton. The song from the soundtrack of The Bodyguard spent fourteen weeks on top of Billboards Hot 100 singles chart. Whalum later toured as Houstons opening act for several years. As he described the experience on his website, I have so many fond memories of the years spent touring with Whitney. Her powerful gift impacted me profoundlymuch like the many gospel singers who influenced the both of us. I was influenced by her long before I ever worked for her. I will always treasure being there to watch her make history time and time again.

Whalum moved his family to France in 1992 but returned to the United States to capitalize on the popularity of I Will Always Love You. His first album in four years, Caché, was released in 1993. He released one more album on the Columbia label, In This Life (1995), before signing with Warner Bros. Jazz. His first album for that label, 1997s Colors, grew out of his experiences with racial and cultural diversity in the United States and abroad. Taking his interest a step further, Whalum founded a nonprofit organization, Hearts Against Racism and Prejudice (HARP) to promote tolerance and understanding across cultural barriers. Whalum was also active in raising money through charity benefit concerts for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Houston and the Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena.

While Whalum typically recorded his own compositions, 1998s For You included versions of Mariah Careys My All and Janet Jacksons Thats the Way Love Goes, among other pop tunes. The album proved to be the most successful of Whalums career, spending over a year on Billboards contemporary jazz albums chart. Whalum returned to his gospel roots with The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter One in 1998. He later recorded two more spiritual-themed albums, which allowed him to explore his religious faith through his music, Hymns in the Garden and The Christmas Message, both released in 2001. As Whalum commented in a Warner Bros. Jazz press release to promote The Christmas Message, I wanted to fully share the joy of the Christmas story, but at the same time not in a dogmatic way. The story, and the songs that convey it, already carries its own power and glory.

In 2001 Whalum released Unconditional, an album that contained both original compositions by Whalum and covers of N Syncs God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You and Macy Grays I Try. While the inclusion of such popular fare might have seemed unusual for a smooth jazz performer, Whalum took a different view. It is easy to be narcissistic and insular, to want to get your own point across every time, he told Billboard in October of 2000. These songs are accessible to the public, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you think about Louis Armstrong or Count Basie, who have as much integrity as anyone who ever picked up an instrument, they played things that appealed to the public, things that would make people dance. Thats not a crime.

Selected discography

Floppy Disk, Columbia, 1985.

And You Know That!, Columbia, 1988.

The Promise, Columbia, 1989.

Caché, Columbia, 1993.

In This Life, Columbia, 1995.

Colors, Warner Bros., 1997.

For You, Warner Bros., 1998.

The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter One, Warner Bros., 1998.

Joy, Intersound, 1999.

Unconditional, Warner Bros., 2001.

The Christmas Message, Warner Bros., 2001.

The Best of Kirk Whalum, Sony, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, October 7, 2000, p. 39.

Ebony Man, April 1994, p. 10.

Online

Grammy Fest: High School Jazz Ensembles Showcase, 3rd Annual Latin Grammy Awards, http://www.grammy.com/news/academy/0224jazz.html (July 15, 2002).

Kirk Whalum: Hymns in the Garden, Gospel Flava, http://www.gospelflava.com/reviews/kirkwhalumhymns.html (July 15, 2002).

Kirk Whalum Official Website, http://www.kirkwhalum.com/kwbio.htm (July 15, 2002).

Kirk Whalum: The Christmas Message, Warner Bros. Jazz, http://publicitymaterials.wbr.com/Thumbnails/Kirkwhalum/2001/KIRKWHALUM2001_XMAS.pdf (July 15, 2002).

Kirk Whalum: Unconditional, Smooth Jazz News, http://www.smoothjazznews.com/archives/may2001/cs0501.html (July 16, 2002).

Kirk Whalum: Unconditional, Warner Bros. Jazz, http://www.wbjazz.com/showpage.asp?code=biokirkwhalum (July 16, 2002).

Timothy Borden

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Whalum, Kirk 1958–

Kirk Whalum 1958

Jazz musician

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

Categorized by some critics as a smooth-jazz performer, tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum has released albums of worship and gospel music, covers of pop tunes, straight-ahead rhythm and blues, and movie soundtracks in addition to his jazz recordings. He has also played on tour and in the recording studio with Babyface, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Barbra Streisand, and George Benson. His talent and versatility have made Whalum one of the few commercially successful contemporary jazz performers who also garners respect from jazz critics, many of whom dismiss radio-friendly jazz music as artistically questionable. For his part, Whalum has simply tried to make the music that he, and audiences, love to hear. I must say that Im motivated pretty much by the attitude of musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, he told Karen Rutter of the Mail & Guardian Online website in April of 2000. Not because they pushed the limits, but because they played music for the people. They played the kind of music you could dance to, listen to, make love to. You might call it a commercial approach, but I think its more about a human touch.

Kirk Whalum was born in 1958 in Memphis, Tennessee, where his father was the pastor of a Baptist church. Whalum played the drums for the choir in church; at home he was inspired by the examples of two of his uncles, arranger Wendell Whalum and pianist and saxopho-nist Hugh Peanuts Whalum, who were successful jazz artists, as well as by his grandmother, Thelma Twigg Whalum, who gave piano lessons. Although he first took up the drums, Whalum started to play the saxophone while he was in junior high school. By the time he reached high school, his talent for the instrument was so obvious that he was drafted into his schools jazz band by its music instructor. He quickly developed a love for jazz music and began playing at some Memphis clubs while he was still in high school. Although he pursued jazz as his primary interest, Whalum was influenced by a diverse range of musical sources. I grew up in Memphis, one of the worlds most eclectic places, he explained to Jeff Bradley of the Denver Post in a 1996 interview. Youve got some serious blues, gospel is really big, and Nashville is right around the corner. If you travel between the cities, you find people of every ethnic persuasion who like all different kinds of music.

After completing high school in Memphis, Whalum was awarded a scholarship to study music at Texas

At a Glance

Born Kirk Whalum on July 11, 1958, in Memphis, TN; married Rubystyne Whalum; children: Courtney (from a previous relationship), Kyle, Kori, and Evan. Education: Studied music at Texas Southern University. Religion: Baptist.

Career: Session musician and recording artist, 1985-; albums: Floppy Disk 1985; And You Know That!, 1988; The Promise, 1989; Caché, 1993; In This life, 1995; Colors, 1997; For You, 1998; The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter One, 1998; Joy, 1999; Unconditional, 2001; The Christmas Message, 2001; The Best of Kirk Whalum, 2002.

Addresses: Record Company Warner Brothers Records, 3300 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91505-4694. Management-Cole Classic Management, P.O. Box 231, Canoga Park, CA 91305. Fan ClubKirk Whalum Fan Club, P.O. Box 218859, Nashville, TN 37221. Website http://www.kirkwhalum.com

Southern University in Houston. He lost no time in diving into one of the most creative jazz scenes in the country, and formed his own jazz band. Houston was such a cool music town in the early eighties, Whalum recalled in a biography posted on his website. There were so many live music venues then. And everybody came through Houston. I was like a spongejust sitting there with these giants and absorbing everything they threw my way. After he completed his studies at Texas Southern, Whalum almost put music aside for a more practical career. After spending just one day on the job at a Houston department store, however, he suffered a car accident that caused him to reevaluate his priorities. He decided that he could only be happy by pursuing music as a full-time career.

Whalums first big break came in 1983 when his band opened for jazz pianist and composer Bob James. James immediately invited Whalum to play saxophone on an album he was recording, titled 12. In addition to soloing on some of the albums cuts, Whalum wrote one of its tracks, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, which he penned in honor of his wife, Rubystyne Whalum. Whalum subsequently became part of Jamess touring band and in 1984 secured a recording contract with Columbia Records. His first album, Floppy Disk, was produced by James and was released in 1985. And You Know That! followed in 1988 and The Promise was released in 1989. Although sales for the albums were modest, each helped to build Whalums reputation with critics and jazz lovers. Its a blessed wind that blows everyone good, wrote David Hiltbrand of People in a review of The Promise. The critic added, And the sweet zephyr emanating from Whalums sax is such a godsend.

As a solo artist, session musician, and father, Whalum found that the late 1980s and early 1990s were a busy period. Along with his wife, Ruby, whom he married around 1981, Whalum raised four children, Courtney (Whalums daughter by a previous relationship), Kyle, Kori, and Evan. Whalum was also active as a movie soundtrack composer and arranger on films such as The Prince of Tides, Boyz in the Hood, and Grand Canyon, all of which were released in 1991. In 1992 one of Whalums guest appearances in the recording studio helped make pop music history. His saxophone solo on Whitney Houstons rendition of the Dolly Parton song I Will Always Love You from the soundtrack of the movie The Bodyguard helped the song spend 14 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The single set a record for the most weeks on top of the charts, and its popularity encouraged Whalum to move back to the United States from Paris, where he had lived with his family for a brief period. Whalum ended up joining several of Houstons concert tours in the 1990s as her opening act.

Whalum released two more albums on Columbia, Caché in 1993 and In This Life in 1995. In 1997 he signed with Warner Brothers and released Colors, an album inspired by his interest in promoting cross-cultural harmony. In 1998 Whalum released two albums that demonstrated his range of talent and interests. The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter 1 reflected his deep spirituality, while For You reached a broad audience with covers of popular songs such as My All and Thats the Way Love Goes. In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, Whalum described For You as My way of saying thank-you to all the fans who have been so loyal over the past 15 years, and to all the musicians Ive worked with. The album became Whalums most successful to date and hit the top spot on Billboards Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

Although Whalums 2001 release, Unconditional, included a couple of pop cover tunes, it featured a more aggressive sound that surprised some critics who had expected him to continue with his successful, smooth-jazz image. Sometimes it is thought that the listeners of what is termed smooth jazz want some sort of background music, Whalum explained in an interview with Billboard. But I think most of them want something honest and a bit raw, something with substance. Whalum changed directions again with an album of holiday-themed songs on The Christmas Message in 2001. In addition to his recorded output, Whalum continued to be a popular performer in concert.

By now based in Nashville, Tennessee, Whalum took satisfaction in the release of The Best of Kirk Whalum in 2002, and in the continuing respect of jazz fans and critics. Yet his biggest source of professional pride came from the personal connection he had made with his listeners through his music. Musically, I am most encouraged by people telling me that when they hear me play, they dont hear just a saxophone, but my actual voice, as if its just a vehicle for whats deep inside me, he told Jonathan Widran on the Smooth Jazz website. He added, Its a motivating blessing for me.

Selected discography

Floppy Disk, Columbia, 1985.

And You Know That!, Columbia, 1988.

The Promise, Columbia, 1989.

Caché, Columbia, 1993.

In This Life, Columbia, 1995.

Colors, Warner Brothers, 1997.

The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter 1, Warner Brothers, 1998.

For You, Warner Brothers, 1998. Joy, Warner Brothers, 1999.

Unconditional, Warner Brothers, 2001.

The Christmas Message, Warner Brothers, 2001.

The Best of Kirk Whalum, Sony, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, October 7, 2000, p. 39.

Denver Post, February 19, 1996, p. E10.

Newsweek, May 20, 1996, p. 76.

People, September 4, 1989, p. 19.

Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), September 23, 2001, p. 5.

On-line

All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (September 12, 2002).

Kirk Whalum (official artist website), http://www.kirkwhalum.com/ (August 29, 2002).

Mail & Guardian Online, http://www.chico.mweb.co.za/art/q_n_a/qna.html (April 18, 2000).

Smooth Jazz News, http://www.smoothjazznews.com/ (May 2001).

Timothy Borden

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"Whalum, Kirk 1958–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Whalum, Kirk 1958–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/whalum-kirk-1958

"Whalum, Kirk 1958–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/whalum-kirk-1958